Series: One Line(2/26)
Characters: Michael, Adam, Elena, OC
Summary: When you're used to being a hammer, it's not just problems that look like nails.
Word Count: 2,631
Disclaimer: I don't know you, you don't know me. Let's keep it that way.
Author's Note: This was originally written for the fanfic100 challenge on livejournal.
AN2: The One Line series is in progress, although this story is complete. The series and the accompanying short stories get their names from the song "One Line" by PJ Harvey. The International Friendship Song is inspired by "The Animaniacs" which are owned by Warner Bros.
Part two in the One Line series.
Pulling his briefcase and laptop bag from the backseat of the car, Michael noted that Elena's car was missing. He mentally reviewed her schedule. As far as he knew she hadn't had any plans for the night. Michael walked around the car and set his briefcase on the trunk of the black BMW. Unlocking it, he pulled out his PDA.
No. No plans that would take her and Adam from the house. The operative trailing her hadn't called in or uploaded any new intel. And the lights were on.
Michael remembered, suddenly, that it had rained outside the city earlier in the day. Elena moving the car was not an unlikely possibility. She made sure there was enough room for at least one of their cars – the one most likely to be in residence.
Satisfied that this was the likely reason for the missing car, Michael closed the briefcase and snapped the locks. He shifted the laptop bag still on his shoulder and picked up the briefcase. The car keys and accompanying house keys had never left his hand.
The key had been turned in the lock when Adam's unmistakable shriek cut the night air.
He was standing inside the door, Glock in both hands, and nothing else registered. Except the woman on the floor growling over his son.
Michael felt himself shutting down – felt doors closing. Already several steps ahead of himself, he had determined it would be best not to hide the body, but that Adam would need intensive therapy.
He stalked forward. He didn't want the shot to go wide.
Another shriek went up from Adam.
Michael clicked off the safety. Wondered where Elena was.
The hostile's growl turned into a yelp. She/It rolled over. Ink straight hair fell over her face. Adam blocked the shot. Michael stepped forward to give himself a clearer one.
And then the picture before him resolved itself: the broad grin on Adam's face, the half-curled fingers, the way the hostile beneath him trembled and shook convulsively, her high-pitched please for help interspersed with bright peals of laughter.
"Give up?" Adam demanded.
"Ne-Ne-Never! …Oh!" Laughter burst from her. Freeing one hand she pushed dark hair out of her mouth and eyes.
Michael knew the moment she saw him. He felt her fear zing between them. Then recognition chased the fear away. She would have spoken then, but Adam launched a new attack. Her head went down, instantly breaking eye-contact, as she burst into helpless laughter.
"Ada- Adam! S-Stop! Stop! Hee hee!"
"You give up, Flor?"
"Adam now – hee hee hee – isn't the time."
"Surrender!" he cried.
She caught his nimble hand in her own. "As soon as you say hello to your dad."
Adam looked down at her as if she had grown another head. Grip still firm on his hands – he was trying to wriggle them free – she turned her head and pointed with her chin.
"Oomph!" She curled in around her midsection.
The Glock had disappeared from Michael's hands the moment the young woman had looked away. He knelt down and caught his son in both arms. Standing, he saw the woman struggling to rise while clutching her middle.
Hefting Adam so that the boy's legs were wrapped around his waist, Michael turned to his son. "Look at what you did," he said gently. He'd seen Adam step on the woman's midsection as he jumped up. "Is that how you to treat a girl? What if it was Mommy?"
"I'm sorry, Flor," Adam apologized, looking rather contrite.
The woman – no, girl, Michael amended now that he could see her better – gave Adam a lopsided grin as she joined them in the hall just outside the family room. "That's no problem, kiddo," she said, jiggling his elbow. "I just won't be taking any deep breaths for a little while."
"You forgive me?" he asked solemnly.
Michael braced himself as Adam leaned over to give the girl – Floor? Fleur? – a hug. He didn't go to her, though Michael saw that she was ready to take him. Michael shifted as Adam settled himself along his father's shoulder.
"So, uh…" She pushed that straight, straight black hair out of her eyes.
Simone had found it annoying, too.
"You must be Mr. Samuelle," she said, extending her hand. "I'm Flora Leung. From down the street." She shook his hand firmly, but quickly. "I'm the, uh, babysitter. Which you may have guessed."
Michael gave her a warm smile, trying to diffuse her nervousness. It didn't.
"Where is Elena?" he asked instead. "Do you know?"
Fidgeting on her feet, she quickly shook her head no then tucked her hair back behind her ear. "Mrs. Samuelle called my mom to ask if I was available to sit on short notice, but if she told Mom where she was going Mom didn't tell me."
"I see," Michael said as much in response to her answer as the rapid-fire way she had delivered it.
Flora colored. "I, uh… Sorry. I don't really do well around strangers. Childhood trauma," she added, rolling her eyes as if to say it was about as much fun to talk about as her parents' social life.
"Oh! I, uh, am an American."
Michael raised his eyebrows.
"Which you already figured out, right? But I brought it up to say that me and my mom and my stepdad moved into the neighborhood a couple of months after you guys did. I think Mrs. Samuelle said you were away on business. Which is why you have no idea who I am."
Likely. What he said was, "Chinese?"
She blinked at him for a moment before she understood. "Yeah. Totally Chinese-American with a hint of French-Canadian thrown in for fun from my dad."
Michael looked at her.
"My jokes always go off better when I'm not so nervous."
He certainly hoped so.
"Uh, well…" she twisted on her feet, "I guess since you're here you don't need me anymore. I'll, uh, go grab my coat and bag and stuff and go home.
"Hey! But I bet Mrs. Samuelle will be home soon."
There was a strong note of hope in her voice. It took Michael a moment to realize it was for him. He offered her another smile. "I'm sure."
She returned his smile tenfold, eyes disappearing into black lines on her face. Michael felt his stomach lurch.
"Okay, cutie, gimme a hug before I go," she said to Adam, still reclined against his father.
The boy frowned. Michael could hear it in his voice when he whined, "I don't want you to go."
He watched Flora make an exaggerated moue. "I know you don't, cutie pertuttie—" Adam giggled. "—but your dad's here and I have to go. I was going to leave when Mommy came home anyway, remember?"
"It's not the same."
Michael started to correct his son, but Flora was already speaking: "Sure it is, buddy. Your daddy's just a lot more, uh, square than your mommy. But the same thing." She smiled warmly at Adam, giving all her attention to the boy. "So you're not going to give me a goodbye hug?"
He seemed torn with indecision.
"Adam…" All her hurt was in his son's name.
Michael jostled the boy in his arms. "Adam, how about we walk Flora home. Would that be okay?"
"Yeah," Flora agreed brightly, "you wanna walk me home like a big boy?"
Still not sure, it seemed, he nodded.
"Okay, but big boys have to put their coats and hats on before they take their babysitters all the way home."
Adam squirmed and wriggled to get out of Michael's arms. He dutifully set the boy down – who then took off like a rocket.
"Thank you," Flora said softly before chasing after the boy.
He was inclined to tell not to thank him but rather the vision of all the women in his life, living and dead, personal and professional, leveling condemnation on him if he didn't.
Michael looked down at his son, swinging Flora's arm as far and fast as his four-year-old arm could take it. "What are you singing?" he asked the boy.
"The International Friendship Song."
Flora caught Michael's eye and mouthed, "Cartoon show. Don't ask."
Ignoring her, he said, "And you sing it with a German accent?"
"I think it's Swedish, actually," Adam said prosaically.
Shrugging as if to say I told you so, Flora rejoined Adam at the chorus: "Oh, du schoene. Oh, du schoene. Oh, du schoene, Schnizelbank!"
"Is this not a shiny light?" Adam sang, starting a new verse in his piping voice.
"Ya dat is a shiny light," Flora sang back.
"Is the stars pre-tty tonight?"
"Ya stars is pre-tty tonight."
Together they sang the new chorus, "Shiny light, pre-tty tonight. Oh, du schoene. Oh, du schoene. Oh, du schoene, Schinzelbank!"
Adam started a new verse about the parked cars. Michael slowly, fondly, shook his head as Flora sang the answering lines.
Soon they were standing at the end of her walk. Flora knelt before the boy. "Okay, short stuff, catch you tomorrow, right?"
He threw his arms around her neck. "I want to go home with you!"
"Oh, mon chou…mais, tu papa d'ici. Don't you want to spend time with him?"
Adam shook his head with childish determination.
Flora glanced up at Michael as if to apologize for his son's lack of loyalty with one look. Turning back to Adam, she secured her arms around his tiny body and stood. "When was the last time you saw me, cutie?"
He thought for a moment, then said, "This morning?"
"From the living room window, right?"
Nodding with him she said, "Now when was the last time you saw your daddy?"
After a lot more thinking – Adam's scrunched up face made Michael smile – he shook his head. He couldn't remember.
"But it wasn't so so long ago, was it? You just can't remember, right?"
"Wanna know how long since I've seen my daddy?"
He nodded fervently. "How long, Flor?"
"Five whole years."
Michael watched Adam's eyes widen. "That's longer than I am."
Smiling sadly, though Michael didn't think the boy noticed, Flora shifted him in her arms. "Yup," she said, running a finger down his nose. "That is longer then you are old."
"Cause I'm only four."
"Four and a half," Michael said softly.
"Exactly," she said. "So if my daddy showed up right now I would go and be with him right now, even though you know you're my favorite cutie pertuttie ever!"
"Maintenant, cutie. This second."
They stared at each other for a moment – then he tightened his arms around her neck and Flora hugged him back. Adam twisted in her arms. Michael took him.
Jiggling his foot, Flora said, "I love you, cutie."
"Love you too, Flor. Will I see you tomorrow?"
Brightening, she grinned and pushed her hair behind her ears. "On my way to school like always." Turning her smile on Michael, she jammed her hands in the pockets of her jacket. "Night, Mr. Samuelle. It was nice meeting you."
He sensed her discomfort but stuck his hand out anyway. "You too, Flora," he said, shaking her hand. She slipped her hand from his and went quickly up the walk.
They were sitting in the living room playing dinosaurs and astronauts when Michael heard Elena's car pull into the drive. Mischief gleaming in his eyes, he said, "Let's surprise Mommy."
An answering light shone in Adam's eyes. "Yeah."
"Okay. Stay here and keep playing. Daddy's going to hide."
"Can I hide too?"
"Next time, Adam. I need you to make Mommy think Flora is still here. Can you do that?"
Adam considered and seemed to waver, then nodded sharply. He would do it.
Michael kissed his forehead. "I'm right here," he said, slipping into the unlit corridor that turned off from the main hall.
Moments later the key turned in the lock. Michael heard the door open, then close and lock. "Flora? Adam? I'm home. Flora?
"Oh, there you are!"
Michael heard the change in her voice as she spotted Adam from the end of the hall. Her heels clicked on the hardwood.
"Where's Flo—" Her high-pitched squeal turned into nervous laughter as she punched Michael's chest.
They had put Adam down to sleep not long after Elena had come home. He had chortled in delight when Daddy got Mommy, but about a half-hour later was cranky and restless. Michael had wanted to get him ready for bed but Elena shooed him off. "It'll be faster if I do it, and he's tired."
But he had been ready for her.
It was about three in the morning and Elena was fast asleep, lying diagonally across the bed, tangled in the bed sheets. Facing the bed, he couldn't see her for the glare of his laptop, but it kept the light from disturbing her rest.
For a fifteen-year-old girl, Yuen San "Flora" Leung had a surprisingly detailed file. Under light question Adam had disclosed that Flora often spoke French to him because Mommy wanted him "to keep up with it." Now he understood why: Though her mother was in fact Chinese-American, her father was a Chinese ex-patriot who had passed himself off as Chinese French-Canadian to her mother. The son of a corrupt Chinese businessman, he had been running from that life when he met Jun. Six years later that life had come back to haunt his child. Leung's father had had his granddaughter kidnapped to force his son's return to the fold.
For four days, while Leung and his father negotiated, six-year-old Flora waited in an opulent hotel room, guarded by two men and one woman. On the fifth day Leung returned from China with his daughter.
A month later Leung went back to China. No further incidents followed though he made frequent, extended, trips to China on his father's chartered jet. One such flight went down in the Sea of China. Leung was declared dead; his body was never found.
Jun Leung remarried nearly four years later. Her new husband's job had relocated them to France two months after Michael had been relocated by Section.
According to the most recent intel, Leung was now going under the name Peter Yuen and had moved his base of operations in Taiwan.
Michael closed his laptop and let it sit warm on his thighs as his eyes adjusted.
Elena glanced over her shoulder from the sink. "Adam, it's eight o'clock."
"Flor!" The boy scrambled out of his chair and dashed out of the kitchen.
Raising his eyebrows, Michael met Elena's eyes. "Go look."
He wasn't moving nearly as fast as his son was, but Michael caught up with him as he scrambled up onto the couch. Adam hardly seemed to notice his company as he pushed himself closer to the window.
Taller, Michael sat on the couch beside him and wrapped an arm around his legs.
Adam spared him a glance. "Look, Daddy!" Before Michael could ask him what they were looking at, Adam was pointing and waving.
A trio of girls in dark coats and brightly colored hats and gloves were walking past the house.
As if she could hear him, the girl nearest the house turned and scanned the street. Spotting Adam she waved. He waved back. She kept waving
Michael dutifully waved to the girl. Grinning she gave them one last goodbye wave then ran to rejoin her friends.
"I like Flor," Adam said, sliding off the couch.
Michael picked up his son and threw him over his shoulder. Adam squealed with delight.
He liked Flora too.